London City Lionesses more than matched unbeaten FA Women’s Championship front-runners Aston Villa but ended 2019 with a 3-1 reverse on Sunday.
A spectacular individual goal from captain Ellie Mason put us in front at Boldmere St. Michaels – however, clinical Villa turned it around before the break.
We applied periods of pressure in the second half but lacked the finishing touch and the little bit of good fortune needed to claim the point the performance arguably deserved.
An exciting game, which was a good advert for the Championship, exploded into life in the sixth minute when Mason burst forward from the halfway line, brushed off several challenges and slipped the ball home.
However, Villa have a dangerous front line and were level very quickly, Amy West crossing for Emma Follis to fire in.
Lucy Fitzgerald forced Villa keeper Sian Rogers into a save as we looked bright on the counter, but the hosts were then awarded a penalty, after Mason brought down Shania Hayles.
However, Marisa Ewers’ kick was well saved by Lucy Thomas.
That was merely a brief hold-up for Villa, though, as Emily Syme’s long-range shot took a deflection and looped up over Thomas.
Lionesses continued to threaten, and Hannah Short headed Flo Fyfe’s corner narrowly over the bar. At the other end, Thomas made a fine block to deny West.
Thomas also made the first save of the second half, getting down well to turn a low drive behind for a corner.
But aside from that, she was a virtual spectator at times as the Lionesses got on top. Harley Bennett was inches away from making it 2-2 when he free-kick came back off the bar.
Substitute Evie Clarke made her presence felt, producing a save from Rogers and also lofting a shot on to the roof of the net. But in the last 20 minutes, Villa wrested back control. Thomas got behind a snapshot from the edge of the box but she was beaten by Ewers’ scorching shot from distance which sealed victory.
Lionesses striker Liz Ejupi said: “We did have a few chances that we didn’t put away.
“We gave it our all. We did our homework, set our plan and tried to get in behind. We should have just finished it in the first half.
“Villa are a good side and deserve to be where they are in the league. They have goalscorers throughout the whole squad. They punish you and create chances and we all knew it was going to be a battle.
“This was a big game for us if we wanted to stay up in there but we’ll see what happens after Christmas.”
We return to action on Sunday January 12, when we host London Bees.
Lionesses: Thomas; Short, Sampson, Mason; Kemppi, Fyfe (Rossiter 84), Wilson, Bennett (Mackie 62), Fitzgerald; Ejupi, Susanna (Clarke 50).
Subs not used: Smith, Neville, Priest, Ayisi.